Guide written by:
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester
If you are not yet aware of the mind-blowing tool that is a wheel sander, get ready! This device's key word is versatiliy: sandblasting, scouring, polishing, deburring, the only limit is your imagination. For the final bouquet, it's also perfectly suitable with wood, metal or even PVC!
How does a wheel sander work?
The operation of a wheel sander - also known as a satin finshing machine to some manufacturers - is very simple: a motor drives a horizontal shaft on which a roller is equipped - we will also run into the terms brush and flap wheel - both of which have abrasive properties.
To use it, the machine is dragged from top to bottom on the surface - or in the direction of the wood fibers, if applicable.
The many types and varieties of abrasive accessories are what makes the wheel sander unique and versatile.
Concerning its field of action, the satin finishing machine is a real Swiss knife for any abrasive needs:
On steel , it allows for deburring, polishing, removing rust... and many others uses!
- On wood, both soft or hard, the possibilities are huge. Dust and clean old tables, sand surfaces - both rough or finishing - even polishing; a great idea for fancying up your pieces!
The machine is capable of working on PVC and even stone . Is a good scouring of your tiled patio in order? Nothing could be easier!
Wheel sanders are rarely used by the general public, tending to mainly be favored by professionals.
The disadvantage: their price can be relatively high for a good-quality device, and since there are only a few models to choose from, our choice is simplified!
What are the technical characteristics of the wheel roller?
The technical characteristics are made up of all the key points for any power tool really, namely:
The power, which can go up to 1,500 W. This will dictate the machine's ability to work for long period without exhausting the motor. However, high power is not by itself synonymous with a reliable machine!
The rotation speed, ranging from 800 to 4000 turns depending on the job at hand. A speedcontrol switch is crucial to effectively use this kind of machine!
The weight can vary, from 3 to 7.5 kg. A lightweight machine is practical when working high up - for example, cleaning a cladding - but a heavier machine is more stable, allowing for horizontal work and a quieter environment;
- The diameter of the shaft is expressed in metric threads: M8 and M14 being the most common. Pay special attention that the abrasive accessories are correctly compatible with your machine, otherwise you won't get very far!
Other options to consider on wheel sanders?
Options to ensure high comfort level
Electronic soft start: this avoids jerking when being power on, for a smooth start! A restart protection feature can be added in the event of a power failure...think safety first!
Electric brake: it activates when the machine stops and greatly reduces the time it will take for the hub to stop turning. Very useful when working long and often.
Quick roller swap: no need for tools or any more lost time!
Auxiliary dust extractor: absolutely essential! Otherwise, working with your new machine will quickly become a very messy... Simply check the vacuum adapter's diameter.
Settings to look out for
- Adjustable sanding depth: this is more than practical, it's essential! Just note that it's always better to make two light passages instead of one heavy-duty one! This will make it easier to maintain balance and avoid any mishandling.
- Auxiliary dust cover: the goal is to protect your eyes, even though wearing protective glasses is still recommended! - Has an adjustable thickness depending on the model.
- The rollers: these are found on the mid / upper range models. Located at the front and rear, they stabilize the machine to stay perfectly parallel to the surface. The rollers can sometimes be adjusted depending on the job.
How do avoid getting confused with the many abrasive attachments on sale?
We will encounter three different terms: flap wheel, brush and hub - or even a fourth, rarely used by manufacturers, the plated cylinder.
It is sometimes challlenging to be precise with this terminology because even the manufacturers themselves are sometimes confused in the technical terms but have no fear!
Its thin rods will scrape the surface of the surface and gradually wear it down. The rods are made of metal, brass-plated steel, nylon or synthetic material - these last two options are also coated with abrasive particles. The diameter of the fibers is often provided and is a good indicator to look at when selecting your next purchase. Brass or steel wire are perfect for deburring, removing rust or corrosion or heavy scouring on wood. Nylon and synthetics are less aggressive and are used for maintenance or finishing work. Lastly, we have polishing brushes - made of soft material such as sheepskin.
The flap wheel and hub
A coating of abrasive material or nylon - to which is added more rigid flaps or abrasive enhanced rubber to increase durability. Another option is a slotted split system that cleans surfaces while getting rid of any dust!
Flaps wheels and hubs are normally suitable for steel and wood but it's always better to check the manufacturer’s manual for specific instructions!
Last suggestion: for a better wooden structure and to get beautifuly polished furniture, go for the brush!
What are the characteristics of brushes, drums and rollers?
Brushes, flap wheels and hubs have two important characteristics: their dimensions - they need to fit your machine - and more importantly, their grade.
Like traditional sand paper, grade is based on a sliding scale, and with a range of 40 to 320. The higher the number, the more the work is said to be of a "finishing" nature.
One last piece of advice: Abrasive attachments for wheel sanders are often expensive and should be looked after with care. In other words, do not press with all your force on the machine during use! You will not go any faster, especially if you have to prematurely replace the broken parts!
For passionate hobbyist and DIY-lovers, follow the links below for sanding-related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:
- How to choose your sanding/abrasive sheet?
- How to choose your sanding/abrasive paper?
- How to choose your orbital sander?
- How to choose your workshop sander?
- How to choose your paint?
- How to choose your paint roller?
- How to choose your paint gun?
- How to choose your exterior wood paint?
- How to choose your painting tools?
And to work safely:
Guide written by:
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester, 27 guides
After some time busting my hump at construction, specifically at renovation, painting, carpentry, laying kitchen and bathroom tile, I decided to get my degree as a Carpenter. And I did well because nothing is more pleasant than working on a timber frame or designing a wooden house. Everything about woodworking fascinates me, and building my own home in this material is one of my goals. I’m also a follower of construction tools: I love to learn about innovations, the way they’re used, the tips and tricks, or the performances of each new tool on the market, whether it’s for woodworking or not. I would be happy to advise you and help you with your choices. Happy Tinkering.